Class of ‘18: Take your spirit with you

The Hart-Kauffman comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” will be staged locally in August, and it’s a 70-year-old script that shows its age while also staying remarkably current with its pokes at Wall Street, the power of government and the generally grasping reach of any form of authority.

Which are always themes worth keeping in mind at graduation time. And at this “here-before-we-knew-it” time of celebration and passage, Hood River News extends congratulations to all members of the Class of 2018, be the high school or college.

This is an exciting and bewildering time for anyone completing high school or college, not the least of which is the question of what will happen this summer, let alone in two to five years from now and beyond. What will be my work? Where will I live? How will I pay for everything. Fortunately, for most graduates, those question have answers that will come in time and with the help of others. This is the time to make one’s own decisions, but good advice is there for the asking.

In “You Can’t take It With You,” the character Grandpa is one of those elders who stands ready to give counsel, however quirky it might be.

Early in the play, he returns home from having gone to the local high school commencement, just to listen to the speakers. It is an apparent annual hobby. (Anyone contemplating that kind of thing at Hood River Valley’s commencement Friday night would be disappointed; seating was limited in the event at a new location this year, Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.)

Someone asks Grandpa, “Wonder why they don’t have fireworks at commencements?”

“Don’t make enough noise,” Grandpa says. “You take a good commencement speaker and he’ll drown out a whole carload of fireworks. And say as much, too.”

He is asked, Don’t the graduates ever say anything?

“No, they just sit there in cap and nightgown, get their diplomas, and the along 40 years from now they suddenly say, ‘Where am I?’”

In 2018, such sad irony only comes true if the graduate himself or herself allows it. Commencement events are not merely spectator events or sideshows. For starters, some of the graduates DO say something, and experience has shown us that the speakers are able to express powerful and insightful ideas. Commencement, or “beginning” implies Taking A First Step, or Get Myself Going, and not some passive take-the-diploma-and-wait-for-old-age.

2018 graduates understand that they are in control of how they get to where they are going. That destination is likely to change, but the key phrase as they embark is not, “Where Am I?” but “Where I Am.”

And yes, at WAAAM Friday, they did have fireworks.

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